on Psalms 8 :2
Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings - We have seen how our Lord applied this passage to the Jewish children, who, seeing his miracles, cried out in the temple, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" Matthew 21:16. And we have seen how the enemy and the avenger - the chief priests and the scribes - were offended because of these things; and as the Psalm wholly concerns Jesus Christ, it is most probable that in this act of the Jewish children the prophecy had its primary fulfillment; and was left to the Jews as a witness and a sign of the Messiah, which they should have acknowledged when our Lord directed their attention to it.
There is also a very obvious sense in which the mouths of babes and sucklings show forth the praises of God; viz., the means by which they derive their first nourishment. In order to extract the milk from the breasts of their mothers, they are obliged to empty their own mouths entirely of air, that the eternal air, pressing on the breast, may force the milk through its proper canals into the mouth of the child, where there is no resistance, the child having extracted all air from its own mouth which in this case resembles a perfectly exhausted receiver on the plate of an airpump; and the action of sucking is performed on the same principle that the receiver is exhausted by the working of the airpump. Of this curious pneumatic action the child is capable the moment it breathes; and, its strength considered, performs it as perfectly the first hour as it does in any other period of its childhood or infancy. What does all this argue? Why instinct. And pray what is instinct? You cannot tell. But here is an operation by which the pure Boylean vacuum is made; and this by an infant without any previous teaching! Do you suppose that this is an easy operation, and that it requires little skill? You are mistaken. You have done this yourself while an infant under the sole guidance of God. Can you do it now? You are startled! Shall I tell you what appears to you a secret? There is not one in ten thousand adults, who have had their first nourishment from the breasts of their mothers who can perform the same operation again! And those who have had occasion to practice it have found great difficulty to learn that art which, in the first moment of their birth, they performed to perfection! Here is the finger of God; and here, out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, he has ordained such a strength of evidence and argument in favor of his being his providence, and his goodness, as is sufficient to still and confound every infidel and atheist in the universe, all the enemies of righteousness, and all the vindicators of desperate and hopeless causes and systems.
The words may also be applied to the apostles and primitive preachers of the Gospel; to the simple and comparatively unlearned followers of Christ, who, through his teaching, were able to confound the wise among the Jews, and the mighty among the heathens: and in this sense our Lord uses the term babes, Matthew 11:25 : "I thank thee, O Father - because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to babes."
We may also witness, in the experience of multitudes of simple people who have been, by the preaching of the Gospel, converted from the error of their ways, such a strength of testimony in favor of the work of God in the heart and his effectual teaching in the mind, as is calculated to still, or reduce to silence, every thing but bigotry and prejudice, neither of which has either eyes or ears. This teaching, and these changing or converting influences, come from God. They are not acquired by human learning; and those who put this in the place of the Divine teaching never grow wise to salvation. To enter into the kingdom of heaven, a Man must become as a little child.
Psalm 8:2Ex ore infancium et lactencium perfecisti laudem, propter inimicos tuos, ut destruas inimicum et ultorem.
Trans. Of the mouth of nought spekand, and sowkand, thou has made louying, for thin enmys, that tbou destroye the enmy and the venger.
Par. Nought anely thow ert loued of perfite men, bot of the mouthe of barnes that spekes nought: Zit there er tha that kan nought speke the wisdom of this werld: and of soukand, the qwilk gladdely resayves the lare of haly Kyrk theare moder. Thow has made thi luf thug perfyte for thin enmys: fals cristen men, to schame and to schende for thai er wer than er haythen men. That thu destruy the enmy; that es, he that es wyse in his awen eghen; and wil nought be underloute til thi wil: "and the venger": that es he that defends his Syn; and sais that he synnes nought; or that his syn es les than other mennes.
on Psalms 8 :2
Out of the mouth - This passage is quoted by the Saviour in Matthew 21:16, to vindicate the conduct of the children in the temple crying, "Hosanna to the Son of David," against the objections of the Pharisees and Scribes, and is perhaps alluded to by him in Matthew 11:25. It is not affirmed, however, in either place, that it had an original reference to the times of the Messiah, or that it was meant, as used by the psalmist, to denote that children would be employed in the praise of God. The language sufficiently expressed the idea which the Saviour meant to convey; and the princip e or great truth involved in the psalm was applicable to the use which he made of it. The language would, perhaps, most naturally denote that infant children would give utterance to the praises of God, as the word "mouth" is used; but still it is not quite certain that the psalmist meant to convey that idea. It is probable, as we shall see, that he meant to say, God had conferred great honor on men - men so humble and weak that they might be compared to infants - by making them the means of overthrowing his enemies, thus showing the greatness of the divine condescension.
Babes - The word used here - עולל ‛ôlêl - means properly a boy or child, and is usually connected with the word rendered sucklings, Jeremiah 44:7; Lamentations 2:11. It is applied to a boy playing in the streets, Jeremiah 6:11; Jeremiah 9:21; asking for bread, Lamentations 4:4,; carried away captive, Lamentations 1:5; borne in the arms, Lamentations 2:20; and once to an unborn infant, Job 3:16. It refers here to a child, or to one who is like a child; and the idea is that those to whom it is applied were naturally unable to accomplish what was done by them, and that God had honored them, and had shown his own condescension, by making them the instruments of doing what they had done.
And sucklings - The word used here - יונק yôneq - means a suckling, or a suckling child, a babe, Deuteronomy 32:25. It may be used literally, or employed to denote one who, in respect to strength, may be compared with a babe. The latter is probably the use made of it here.
Hast thou ordained strength - The word rendered ordained - יסד yâsad - means to found, to lay the foundation of, as of a building, Ezra 3:12; Isaiah 54:11. Then it means to establish, appoint, ordain, constitute, etc. The meaning here is, that in what is referred to, there was, as it were, some basis or foundation for what is called "strength;" that is, that what is here meant by "strength" rested on that as a foundation - to wit, on what was done by babes and sucklings. The word "strength" is rendered by the Septuagint as "praise" - αἷνον ainon - and this is followed in the quotation in Matthew 21:16. The same rendering is adopted in the Latin Vulgate and in the Syriac. The Hebrew word - עז ‛ôz - properly means strength, might; and the idea here would seem to be, that even from babes and sucklings - from those who were in themselves so feeble - God had taken occasion to accomplish a work requiring great power - to wit, in "stilling the enemy and the avenger;" that is, he had made those who were so feeble the instruments of accomplishing so great a work.
Because of thine enemies - In respect to thine enemies, or in order to accomplish something in regard to them, namely, in stilling them, as is immediately specified. The idea is, that there were those who rose up against God, and opposed his government and plans, and that God, in overcoming them, instead of putting forth his own power directly, had condescended to employ those who were weak and feeble like little children. Who these enemies were is not specified, but it is most natural to suppose that the reference is to some of the foes of the author of the psalm, who had been subdued by the prowess of his arm - by strength imparted to him, though in himself feeble as an infant.
That thou mightest still - Mightest cause to rest, or to cease. The original word - שׁבת shâbath - from which our word Sabbath is derived, means to rest; to lie by; to sit down; to sit still; and in the Hiphil, to cause to rest, or to cause to desist; to put an end to, Ezekiel 34:10; Joshua 22:25; Psalm 46:9; Proverbs 18:18. Here it means to bring to an end the purposes of the enemy and the avenger; or, to cause him to desist from his designs.
The enemy - The enemy of the writer, regarded also as the enemy of God.
And the avenger - One who was endeavoring to take revenge, or who was acting as if determined to avenge some imaginary or real wrong. This, too, may refer either to some one who was seeking to revenge himself on the author of the psalm, or who, with the spirit of revenge, stood up against God, and had set himself against him.
In regard to the meaning of this verse, which I apprehend is the key to the whole psalm, and which contains the original germ of the psalm, or the thought which suggested the train of reflection in it, the following remarks may be made:
(a) There is no evidence that it was designed to refer originally to infants, or to children of any age, as stating anything which they would do in contributing to the praise of God, or as defeating sceptics and cavillers by "their instinctive recognition of God's being and glory," as is supposed by Calvin, DeWette, Prof. Alexander, and others. What is said here to be done by "babes and sucklings" has reference to some mighty enemy that had been overcome, not to anything which had been effected by the influence of the recognition of God by little children. It may be doubted, also, whether there is any such "instinctive admiration of his works, even by the youngest children," as would be "a strong defense against those who would question the being and glory" of God, as is supposed by Prof. Alexander and others; and, at all events, that is not the manifest thought in the passage.
(b) Nor does it refer merely to praise as proceeding from children, as being that by which the effect referred to is accomplished. It is true that this idea is in the translation by the Septuagint, and true that it is so quoted in Matthew 21:16, and true, also, that, as quoted by the Saviour, and as originally applied, it was adapted to the end which the Saviour had in view - to silence the chief priests and Scribes, who objected to the praises and hosannas of the children in the temple, for the psalm, on any interpretation, originally meant that God would accomplish good effects by those who were feeble and weak as children, and this principle was applicable to the praises of the children in the temple. But it does not appear that it originally referred to praise, either of children or others. It was to some manifested strength or prowess, by which some enemy, or some one who was seeking revenge, was overcome by the instrumentality of those who might be compared with children on account of their feebleness. From this the psalmist takes occasion to make his reflections on the exalted honor conferred in general on a creature so weak and feeble as man, especially in the wide dominion granted him over the inferior creation.
(c) This was, not improbably, some enemy of the author of the psalm; but who it was is not mentioned. David was often, however, in the course of his life, in such circumstances as are here supposed. Might it not refer to Goliath of Gath - a mighty giant, and a formidable enemy of the people of God, overcome by David, quite a stripling - a child? Would not the language of the psalm agree with that? Was it not true that he was an "enemy" and an "avenger," or one socking revenge? and was it not true that God had, from one who was a mere child, "ordained strength" to subdue him?
(d) God had, then, condescended to honor one who was in himself weak and feeble as a child - who had no power of himself to accomplish what had been done.
(e) This was great condescension on the part of God; and especially was it to be so regarded when the eye looked out - as the author of the psalm appears to have done at the time of its composition - on the starry heavens, and contemplated their greatness and grandeur. What astonishing condescension was it that he who marshalled all those hosts should bestow such honor on man!
on Psalms 8 :2
8:2 Babes - Weak and foolish, and contemptible persons, who are frequently called babes or children. Such are very unfit to grapple with an enemy: and therefore when such persons conquer the most powerful and malicious enemies, it must needs confound them, and advance the glory of God: as indeed it did, when such mean persons as the apostles, and disciples of Christ, maintained and propagated the gospel, in spite of all the wit, power, and rage of their enemies. Ordained - Perfectly or firmly settled strength; that is, the praise of his strength or power, Mat 21:16, it is rendered praise. Still - Silence and confound them. Avenger - The devil, and all who are his vassals and espouse his quarrel.